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Natasha peers around the corner of a dusty looking building that is, as far as the general public is concerned, abandoned. She just watched Bucky Barnes sidle his way in through the rooftops, though, so she’s betting it’s a little less abandoned than its appearance would lead the average passerby to believe. Steve is lurking at the other corner, and though he wears a knit cap to cover his blonde hair, he’s still about as stealthy as an elephant in a closet. She really needs to work with him on that.

In the meantime, they have more important things to worry about. Like why Barnes was armed to the teeth. She’s betting this is not where he’s squatting, but the question is, should they chase in after him and give away the game, or risk losing him once he’s swept the base.

She can hear Steve’s breath crackling on the coms, unusually rough for him. He’s keyed up; she doesn’t think he slept a wink on the flight to Baku, and he spent the entirety of the flight inland fiddling with his shield and looking out the window like the clouds might just tell him what he ought to do. She doesn’t know if his mind’s back in the tower with Tony or seventy years back with Barnes, but either way, she’s terrified. She needs him here and now and at the top of his game, because from inside, she’s pretty sure she just heard a gunshot. He did too, if the way his breath hitches is anything to go by.

More gunfire. And then a lot more.

“Go,” Steve hisses, but he’s already running. The decrepit wooden door doesn’t stand a chance against two-hundred twenty pounds of super soldier and by the time Natasha reaches the door, Steve’s already halfway down the dusty halls.

She pauses, watching him tear through doorways that prove to be completely useless in the face of a super soldier, and listens as hard as she can. Back and to the right. Below. Basement levels. Always basements with these gutter rats. She breaks right and starts going as fast as she can, following her ears. She blows past Steve and keeps going, trusting him to follow.

The hallway ends and she takes a sharp right only to be driven immediately back by a squad of guards. They’re all of them heavily armed, and they open fire the moment they see her. She whirls back around and draws her Glocks, twisting to aim and fire. She only gets four shots off before they’re close enough for short-range combat, and then its a flurry of legs and arms and flashing muzzles as she bends and twists to avoid their guns. Halfway through the scrum, Steve barrels into them all, driving three goons down with the shield until Nat hears bones crack. Further down the hall, there’s a spray of dust and bullets, and there he is. She feels Steve pause next to her, feels the way the whole of his body focuses on Barnes, if only for a second, and then he’s fighting again, the shield cracking a skull and then deflecting a hail of gunfire.

Barnes sees them. She knows he does. He’s like her. He sees everything, every tell, every detail, everything that pertains to the mission. It’s the non-mission details that always get them hurt or worse. That's when some Hydra bootlicking moron tosses a grenade into the middle of their melee, Natasha’s only thought is “get it away.” She kicks it down the hall and Barnes snatches it from the air to hurl it back the way he just came. It explodes, and that’s all there is to it. Another dozen guards down.

Except that’s not all there is to it. The building around them, with its dusty crumbling stones and moldering wooden doors, shudders like a waking giant, and a rain of dust falls down on all of them. The fighting draws to an immediate standstill as the building shakes again, and on the other side of Barnes, a wall suddenly crumbles.

“It’s coming down!” Steve bellows, and he grabs Natasha and runs for Barnes. She has better sense than to be indignant about it. She can yell at him later. The Hydra grunts are scrambling, their fight with Steve and Nat completely forgotten, and in a moment, they’ve cleared off entirely, but not toward the entrance Steve and Nat came through. The guards know something they don’t.

Steve sees it too, and so does Barnes. “This way,” he barks, and gestures down yet another hall. Nat hopes he knows what he’s doing. Steve sets her down, and she takes to her feet like a deer, fleeing as quickly and lightly as she knows how. Behind them, there’s another explosion, and heat washes over her back. Steve angles them both into a doorway so the fireball can roar past. In its wake, there’s an acrid stench of burning chemicals.

“Shit shit shit,” Steve is hissing under his breath, but Barnes takes off again. They hit another tangle of guards, ones less sensible than their counterparts. Gunfire, quick and dirty hits and cuts, Nat feels her ear burn. All around them the building is shaking and groaning and there’s no time.

“Steve!” she screams, and he grabs her, grabs Barnes, and pulls a steel door down on top of them. A moment later, the building comes down too, and then Natasha loses herself to the darkness.

When she comes round, she feels almost panicked by the crushing weight above her. The body above her.

It comes back to her in a flash. “Steve? Steve! Steve, wake up. Please be awake.”

Above her, he groans, his chest heaving, pressing her even deeper into the chill stone of the floor. “Nat?” His voice is a rasp against her ear—he sounds scared. And that scares Natasha.

“We’re gonna be fine Steve. Just fine.”

Her fingers scrabble for her SHIELD communicator. Agent Gutierrez is on standby just ten minutes away. They probably heard the commotion. They’re probably already here. As she fumbles, she feels a trickle of liquid down her neck. It’s warm, not sweat, and her fear deepens. “Steve? Steve, are you hurt?”

“I…I think so…”

More liquid, more blood. Steve’s blood. Natasha turns her head and holds her communicator up. It fills the dark pocket they're trapped in with blue light, and she can see the shape of the steel door beyond that, Steve’s shield propped at the top to keep it from crushing them. How he managed to do that in so little time, she doesn’t know. Barnes is just to his other side, and from what she can see, he’s out cold. His metal arm is mangled beneath a pile of stones.

She looks the other direction and sees Steve’s right arm beyond the safe canopy of the door, sees that it too is crushed, sees that blood is pooling beneath it.

Natasha close her eyes and dials the communicator in.

“Agent Romanov?”

“Gutierrez. We need immediate extraction. MedEvac. Now.”

“We’re already at the scene, Agent Romanov. Where are you?”

“Under the building. S…Southeast quadrant. Somewhere. I don’t know…” she glances around, searching for clues, but there is only the door and the stone and the crushing darkness.

Above her, Steve starts shaking. She doesn’t know if it’s shock or fear or both, but she reaches up instinctively, touches his cheek. “Hey. Hey, hey, hey, look at me.”

He does, but his eyes are unfocused. There’s blood on his face, too, trickling down from his head somewhere. “Steve?”


“We’re going to be fine, Steve. You hear me? You and I, Barnes, we’re going to make it out of here. We’re going to be ok. Do you know why?”

Slowly, Steve shakes his head. His eyes are slipping closed. He’s losing consciousness. But she needs him to hear this. She needs him to know.

“Because that’s what we do, Steve, you and I. We rescue each other.”

He nods against her, the barest of movements, and then he’s still. In the swallowing darkness, Natasha waits, counting Steve’s heartbeats and breaths because it’s all she can do. It reminds her of the Red Room. There was a training exercise where they were locked in four-by-four-by-four cells and left in total darkness and isolation for three days. To see if they could withstand it. To make sure they’d never be claustrophobic. Nat is not claustrophobic. But she remembers. She always remembers.

Above them, the rubble shifts in the space beyond the door, and a shaft of light pierces through. She draws up saliva in her bone dry mouth and shouts, “Down here. We’re down here!”

“Agent Romanov! Agent Romanov, hold on! We’re coming.”

Stone after stone is slowly, carefully peeled away. She’s amazed they found them so fast, amazed that they were able to shift so much of the building without causing more collapses. Steve, Barnes, and she must have been close to the exit when the building came down. Only a few more feet and Steve wouldn’t be unconscious above her, more and more of his blood soaking into her uniform.

But the med personnel are here now, and when they get extracted, when they are out of this darkness and safely in a medbay and Steve’s system is healing him at four times the normal human rate and he’s teasing her about her taste in movies, she’ll remind him. They rescue each other. It’s what they do. And she owes him a rescue or two.